Skip to main content
Insight

UK government announces new building safety measures

21/01/2020
Overview
 
Frustrated with the speed at which building safety is being improved following the Grenfell tragedy in June 2017, Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick said on 20 January this year that:
 
Progress on improving building safety needs to move significantly faster to ensure people are safe in their homes and building owners are held to account."
 
From February 2020, Mr Jenrick said he will expose building owners who are dragging their feet on improving the fire-safety of their properties.
 
He confirmed:
 
"Unless swift progress is seen in the coming weeks, I will publicly name building owners where action to remediate unsafe ACM cladding has not started. There can be no more excuses for delay, I’m demanding immediate action.”
 
New building safety regulator
 
Jenrick's reforms will also include introducing a new regulator, established as part of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), to oversee the design, construction and occupation of high-risk buildings.
 
Dame Judith Hackitt, who led the independent review of the building regulations and fire safety following the Grenfell disaster, will supervise the creation of the body that will enforce more stringent regulations for higher-risk buildings.
 
The regulator will initially operate as part of the HSE until legislation giving it statutory powers is passed.
 
The regulator's establishment was announced last year just before the release of the Grenfell Inquiry phase one report, but it is due to be set up in shadow form “within weeks” ahead of necessary legislation coming forward, with government to recruit the first national chief inspector of buildings.  
 
Combustible cladding ban
 
Mr Jenrick also confirmed the government will consult on extending the ban on combustible materials to buildings below 18 metres – the cut-off height historically associated with the reach capabilities of fire rescue equipment.
 
The government-appointed independent expert advisory panel (IEAP) has advised that cladding material comprised of Aluminium composite material (ACM), and other metal composites, with an unmodified polyethylene core should not be used on residential buildings of any height and should be removed.
The government consultation will include proposals to lower the 18 metre height threshold to at least 11 metres.
 
Sprinklers
 
The government has further proposed lowering the height threshold for sprinklers in new buildings from the current 30-metre requirement to 11 metres.
 
The consultation document estimated that an 11-metre trigger height would see 15,940 new buildings fitting sprinklers over 10 years at an annual cost of around £164 million.
 
A new advice document has been issued by the government which is intended to help building owners ensure they are meeting fire safety standards. A copy can be accessed here.
 
For more information on our expertise in this area, including construction, planning and real estate litigation, please contact one of the authors or visit the construction pages on the Fieldfisher website.